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10 Surprising Ways You’re Working Out Every Day

Find out how you’re burning calories without even stepping foot in the gym.

Medically reviewed in October 2021

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Life is hectic, so it can be hard to sneak in a workout. Luckily, you’re burning calories just by doing regular activities like sweeping, gardening and washing dishes. “The average person burns about 1600 calories a day just by doing daily activities,” says Elizabeth Kevil, DPT a Physical Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado.

Here are 10 ways you’re working out during the day, the calories burned and how to spice up everyday activities, so you can burn even more. Each activity is based on a 150-pound woman doing the activity for an hour.

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Mowing the lawn

It’s no surprise pushing a heavy mower around the yard is a real workout. And if you have slopes or hills in your yard, you’ll really feel the burn.

Plus, you’ll get some fresh air and Vitamin D while you’re at it—just make sure to wear your sunscreen. 

Calories burned: 269  

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Snow shoveling

Snow shoveling in the wee hours of the morning is the last thing you probably want to do after the alarm clock goes off, but to get out of the driveway, you have to do it.  

“For those of us that live in winter climates, snow shoveling burns lots of calories,” says Kevil. You’ll be happy to know you can consider it your morning workout. All that lifting will tone up your arms, too.

It’s important to shovel safely, though. Try to avoid extra bending and twisting at the waist, be sure to lift with your legs and be careful that you’re not lifting more than you can handle. And take a break if you’re feeling dizzy or have trouble breathing.

Calories burned: 304

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Mopping and sweeping

Like snow shoveling, the constant back and forth motion of mopping and sweeping can can help you burn some major calories. Not to mention, your house is going to be spick and span afterwards!

Try turning on some of your favorite tunes and dancing to the beat—the amount of calories you will burn will soar.

Calories burned: 170

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Gardening and yard work

If you have a green thumb, you’re in luck. “Gardening, being outside, carrying leaves, raking, pulling weeds, shoveling, digging or carrying mulch will all help you burn calories,” says Kevil.

Try pulling weeds as fast as you can for a few minutes; instead of moseying while you’re carrying the leaves, walk at a brisker pace, says Kevil. “Raking at a faster rate will definitely get your heart rate up and give you a better workout,” says Kevil.

Calories burned: 196

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Grocery shopping

Whether you love it or hate it, grocery shopping is inevitable. Keep things interesting by making it a workout and pushing your cart more briskly. “Walking quickly through the store will increase your heart rate as well as your metabolism.”

You can also try parking the car further away from the grocery store, so you have to walk a further distance when pushing your cart, says Kevil. Make extra trips around the aisles and bag your own groceries, too.

Calories burned: 190 

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Washing dishes

Even though washing dishes may seem like a drag, you may be burning calories while your elbows are deep in suds. “Clearing the table, washing dishes, emptying the dishwasher and scrubbing the dishes all use muscles, and helps burn calories,” says Kevil.

Try washing the dishes while standing on one leg or while doing barre-inspired leg lifts. Doing so will burn more calories and improve your balance.

Calories burned: 88 if washing dishes and standing, 102 if washing and clearing dishes from table

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Cooking

Who knew chopping veggies, boiling pasta and making trips back and forth to the fridge could burn calories? All that hard work pays off for your tummy (delicious meals!) and for your waistline.

Calories burned: 98

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Fidgeting

Even though constantly tapping your leg or foot is probably a nuisance to your cubicle neighbor, doing so can burn calories.

“Tapping your foot or fingers, shifting around or twisting, twiddling your thumbs or tightening your muscles helps you burn calories,” says Kevil.  

Pump your ankles up and down while you’re waiting for an appointment or sit at your desk and squeeze your shoulder blades together holding for 10 seconds, recommends Kevil.

Calories: Up to 350 a day

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Laundry

“Doing laundry can potentially burn quite a few calories, especially if you’re carrying baskets up and down stairs, putting clothes away and climbing a flight or two of stairs or walking a lot between rooms,” says Kevil.

Make laundry more enjoyable (and burn more calories) by turning up your favorite tunes and dance through the house while you’re working.

Another bonus? “Every time you squat down and come up to pick up the laundry, you’re working your thigh and hip muscles, adding lean muscles mass that will help you burn more calories,” says Kevil. 

Calories burned: 68 if folding or putting clothes in dryer and washer, 88 if putting clothes away and walking around 

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Sleeping

Sleeping is a work out? Stick with us for a second. If you’re not getting enough sleep (and most people don’t), you’re burning fewer calories a few different ways.

A lack of sleep messes with your hormones. One shift causes you to lose muscle, and another makes you store more fat—a bad combo because muscle burns more calories than fat. Your hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases while the one that puts the brakes on your appetite, leptin, goes down. And, if you’re sluggish, you’re more likely to be less active.

Sleep soundly by sticking to a regular sleep and wake schedule, powering down electronics one hour before bed and setting your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.

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Turn your chores up a notch

Adding a twist to any activity can maximize the calorie burn. Ramping up the pace or adding more steps are two ways you can get started.

Maintaining good posture can help, too. Pull your shoulder blades back, tighten your stomach muscles and keep your butt muscles engaged. “I challenge my patients to pull their stomach muscles in and their abdomen towards their spine. They can do it walking or standing in line at the store, or during a red light,” says Kevil.

If you want to lose weight, Kevil says you also have burn more calories than you’re consuming. “Eating healthier foods and smaller portion sizes, prepping healthier meals and tossing in an extra workout all help." Get more lessons in longevity from the world’s healthiest communities, also known as Blue Zones, for your best life.

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